Posted by
Emilie Branch
• 09.30.11 11:20 am


It was a long casting, the kind where you realize you’ve only had a coffee and a slice of pizza and now it’s 10 P.M.

It was a long casting, the kind where you realize you’ve only had a coffee and a slice of pizza and now it’s 10 P.M. I had accepted an internship at a casting agency and was deep in the trials of fashion week. It was around this time, in a white-walled, 2,500-square-foot loft in east Chinatown that all my buried suspicions about the evils of the fashion world were confirmed.

Up until this point, my main complaint about fashion had been the beauty of the models. They’re too skinny, they’re too pretty — actually, some of them aren’t even pretty, they’re just skinny. And they’re so tall! No one looks like that. They make me feel like a pygmy.

It was late. It was past the time for congeniality. We were in this loft for about five days straight, for about 12 hours at a time straight. When Da-Xia came in I think it was the climax of all that, the breaking point. My job as intern is to take a photo of the girl who comes in and then send them to the casting director and the designer. The designers were scattered, the casting director told me to have her walk and send her away. This is not uncommon. I’ve had to pretend I hold more weight then I do and stand there as a girl walks for me. It’s usually uncomfortable but at least there are smiles. Da-Xia was not smiling. She knew what was up, especially because another casting director was checking sports scores as she walked, and didn’t bother to lift her head up. I thanked Da-Xia and she sort of let out this wail. It was like she was chocking back tears. The other casting director looked up, “You okay, Da-Xia?” and then put her head back down. I knew why they didn’t see Da-Xia. It was because she was Asian, and they already had the Asian quota filled. “Two Asians!” as the casting director put it.

I felt really badly, especially because this had sort of happened before at another casting. At the other casting, all the Spanish and black girls had to wait while the designers met with the white girls. The time of arrival didn’t matter, skin color did. It was literally that simple. When the right people finally met the girls, they immediately turned them away. I could predict who was going to get to try on the clothes (the next hoop a model must go through) based on the girl’s race. The worst part of all this, believe it or not, was the time it was taking. They knew as well as I did which girls they wanted to use, but they were making the ones they didn’t want wait for nothing — right in the middle of fashion week, when everyone had somewhere else to be.

The show where Da-Xiu was turned away was particularly obvious about the lack of diversity. If you’re a model with blue eyes and blonde hair, you are likely to do well. You won’t be a supermodel per se, but you will hold your own. You make a “nice filler” even if you’re “nothing special.” If you have blonde hair and brown eyes, you’re still in the running. If your eyes are light but your hair is dark, then you lose points. If your skin matches your hair, then more odds are stacked against you.

The hardest thing to be is a black model. Arizona Muse is one of the top models right now. If Arizona walks down a runway, she makes a minimum of $15,000. If Ataui Deng (one of the top black models) walks a runway she makes about $1,500. Ataui is one of the top girls — yet certain white girls who are just starting out make about $3,000.


Ataui Deng


Arizona Muse

Where are the ideas of the fashion world coming from? It must be from a demand, and that demand must be coming from the public. Or, is the fashion world feeding the public ideas about beauty? It’s an ugly chicken-or-the-egg scenario, when you get to the root of it.

I spoke to another intern that I work with about this and she agreed. She brought up one of our favorite girls, who’s Brazilian. She has green eyes, sort of light olive skin and black hair. Is the black hair her downfall or is it the olive skin? My fellow intern put it mildly: “She’s so beautiful but she never gets booked for jobs!”

The show we had spent so much time preparing for was disturbing. The runway was shaped like an X and the girls entered from a door in the back. I was to the right of the door, so I could see them when they first appeared, and then had a view of the other girls coming at me from what felt like all directions. The show theme was “Dutch.” The girls were appropriately “Dutch.” They were fair and tall. It was like there was a factory behind that door. Someone would push a button and another 5”9 girl with blonde hair would appear. It was like a Stepford factory. It gave me the creeps.

-EMILIE BRANCH


Comments
  1. comic book guy. says:

    Very good.

  2. 8 says:

    THE SHOW MUST GO ON

  3. ??? says:

    WTF?? You work in an industry that exists for the sole purpose of style and you’re surprised and put off by the fact that models are judged my their appearance? I’m dumbfounded. Get a new job.

  4. popfop says:

    As a whole, white people are the most beautiful. We live in a multicultural society, just look around when you’re on the train or in the supermarket. It’s not rocket science. The majority of the beautiful women you see around are white. If you want to one up USA, Canada or Britain, go visit a Scandinavian country: babe central.

  5. Arv says:

    @popfop: Dude, where do you live? It obviously isn’t New York if you think blonde-haired, blue-eyed girls are the most beautiful around.

  6. popfop says:

    Not necessarily blonde hair/blue eyed girls. And for the record, I have found all varieties of women attractive – more that if you were to tally up all the women you saw and found attractive in a day, white women would probably be a majority. Of course taste and what arouses one is all subjective…

  7. @Arv says:

    Basically it boils down to this. Im white, and so white is the best because im really into myself and so clearly im the best. Black people, like you, are not me and so are not the best and are ugly. This isnt racsim its just a factual formula that was published in scinetific proof magazine [1].

    [1]Scientific Proof Magazine

  8. Eurocentrism Bullshit says:

    Eurocentrism is so prevalent in this country . You see it in architecture, fashion, music and so on. I’d take Eva Mendes, Rosario Dawson, or Rashida Jones over any of these women any day.

  9. popfop says:

    Yeah those women are all babes and everything but Eurocentrism is prevalent in this country because *newsflash* we’re a Western country which means that our culture, laws, values and aesthetics are primarily descended from European ones. This doesn’t make them superior in anyway it’s just that they are still mostly the norm.

  10. Arv says:

    @popfop: Definitely giving you a hard time here just for fuck’s sake, but I don’t understand how on one hand you’re trying to give the impression of objective mathematical method (“tally,” “majority”), then conceding to the subjectivity of the whole thing. Which is it?

  11. pfft says:

    there’s no need to be offensive to blonde haired blue eyed women either

  12. Ess says:

    I’m with ??? on this one. It doesn’t make sense to be upset over the way someone is treated at your job in regard to the way they look when you’re working in an industry that’s entire economy is based on looks.

  13. really? says:

    Stop The Presses: Breaking News!!
    Fashion is Shallow

  14. This nonsense needs to stop says:

    @Arv, while not defending popfop, he just proved this entire thing. That industry tries to sell an ideal to the majority of its consumers(white), that they like to see themselves(or ideal self) reflected in. If pop were a woman, he would be their primary consuming target and therefore almost everything must reflect them…

  15. This nonsense needs to stop says:

    I’m also surprised that no one has pointed out the irony that an industry that is so gay friendly, that has given the gay community such a chance for success, and is so gay dominated, uses its own exclusivity to perpetuate racist practices and that they themselves aren’t so tolerant once they are in positions of power.

  16. Arv says:

    @This nonsense needs to stop: Totally understand that the industry is catering to white consumers. That isn’t what I was calling popfop on. Rather, it was his statement, “As a whole, white people are the most beautiful,” and his melding of the objective / subjective nature of attraction.

  17. popfop says:

    Arv,

    I guess I was being objective about my own personal standards. Also, “This nonsense…” summed up my argument on Eurocentrism better than I may have. Of course, I think we can all agree that objectively speaking most men would have sex with most women, regardless of ethnicity.

  18. Arv says:

    @popfop: Glad we came eye-to-eye on that. (God, we need something more interesting to argue about.)

  19. Socks says:

    First, glad to see an article about the fashion industry on this man-site. Second, wonder what kind of ad revenues male models of varying ethnicities pull down compared to females of varying ethnicities?

    Next point, do you not think it a shame that an industry capable of employee thousands, such as the fashion industry, still appears to have stringent criteria relative to looks? I agree with the writer of this article, this is shameful “lookism”.

    Also, how does this color-ostracism translate into other jobs in the fashion industry that are not in front of the camera?

    I think this lookism is reprehensible because, finally, it affects our perception of people, in general. And this has consequences for the future of society.

    For example, how many of you know of instances of discrimination based on looks that occur in professions that have nothing whatsoever to do with glamour?

    For instance, many professions still require individuals (by individuals, I do mean women) to meet certain beauty standards – whether or not these individuals deal with the public. You might be surprised about how many professions exclude women from certain positions based on looks. Perhaps you might check with your respective women-folk to explore this further.

  20. I'm awesome, and I fuck dolphins says:

    Fuck the fashion industry. I date a female who wanted to break into it but got caught up by the quotas and bullshit on non white females. Beauty doesn’t have a race.

  21. chRon says:

    Further to @really?’s comment,

    clothing is used by humans primarily for two things 1) Protection from the elements (survival) and 2) Fashion. Given that 2) Fashion is nothing more than a way for people to express their socio-economic status (AKA “personal style”), does it follow that clothing for fashion’s sake is nothing but pure narcissism in physical form? Discuss.

    PS Arv’s really giving PopFop a run for his money.

  22. westernlady says:

    Unfortunately, alot of people are so short-sighted not to see that beauty is very individual these days. I have black hair and eyes and white skin. But ALL of the men I see on TV and on the Internet dating sites, and in person, dating sites ALL THEY WANT ARE BLONDES!!! So I gave up on both dating and society’s view of beauty. So I say, ‘I’M UGLY AND PROUD!!!”


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